Monday, 11 June 2012

Selling Lightbulbs

When a potential employer asks me “what is it you were doing whilst you were in Australia?” I like to reply I was an Energy Consultant advising CEO’s of mega corporations on energy efficiency, or I was part of a direct marketing team focusing on energy efficiency within the B2B market or maybe I was simply a lighting specialist. From any of these “job descriptions” you may think that I was doing something clever, important and high paid – you would be wrong. Although each description is technically correct it in no way describes the job at hand. Let me take you back to my first day:


I had, had my interview, there was a basic job description it sounded a bit rubbish but I needed the money – I would be selling energy efficiency. How? I did not know but I was told that I would have training. So I dress in my little black skirt and smart black top and head to my designated meeting point; the corner of Bathurst St and Elizabeth St in The CBD. I wait for a while, I am early as usual on a first day, then I see what cannot possibly be what I am doing for the day – heading or should I say bouncing towards me is Dave a 30 something slightly balding man with all of the energy of a hyperactive chipmunk on coke. “Well G’day, G’day I’m Dave and today we are selling light bulbs” he announces with the utmost enthusiasm – he then hands me a khaki green shirt with a big Green Guys Logo (the name of the company) on it and a light bulb – a long one from office blocks – it’s all a little bit random! He then takes me to a coffee shop to meet Martin a fellow Brit that had also been roped into this job. Martin is in his late 20’s and had a sales job at home so possesed a similar spirit to Dave – though not as – umm – jumpy and loud, he had some British reserve. Martin and Dave both had a real love for the sale I think that it gave them a small buzz, this was lost on me, for me the prospect of sales was daunting and completely out of my comfort zone. I’m the sort of person who is scared to even make a phone call to a stranger let alone waltz in and start trying to sell things. But when needs must!

I was told that I would be following Dave for the day and observing; this was all a numbers game and the target was to produce 20 leads that could later be converted into sales by a separate team. I watched Dave followed him up countless elevators and watched him smooth talk his way past many a weary receptionist to get those leads, with clever wording and grand claims such as backed by the government which was a half-truth.

Then it was my turn – in my green shirt with light bulb in hand I made my first solo attempt at getting a lead. I knocked on a door blundered out the now painful to me words of “Hi, I’m Claire from The Green Guys – the department of climate change is offering you funding to upgrade your old T8 lights to the new T5’s and it will save you 80% off your electricity bill…blah blah, sales jargon, blah blah” although that first pitch was peppered with awkward silences and lots of urrr and ummm’s. To my surprise the guy took pity on me and let me in to count his lights give him a quote and be on my way. This gave me a little bit of confidence and in that afternoon I managed to rack up 28 leads which was more than either Martin or Dave. I do not put this down to my smooth talk or charm as I am seriously lacking in those departments and both Martin and Dave excel - but to the fact that I am young and people felt bad for me.

It was enough to impress – and some of those leads did turn into sales. I was told that I would be paid $750 per week to essentially wander around the different areas of Sydney and the sales didn’t seem too difficult so I took the job.

In the long run I would advise people not to work in this industry it is tough, not all days are good ones – in fact most are not. It is tiering and thankless and a lot of people can be rude – I can understand as I hate sales people. This was the first of many days to come selling blasted light bulbs to anyone who will take them and was probably the biggest mistake that I made when traveling as I was also later to learn that good sales people are also good liars and me and Martin were about to be royally screwed over!!

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